The Legend of the Christmas Cookie
Dandi Daley Mackall
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
It is the Great Depression and Jack is missing his father who has gone West to work, desperately – even moreso now that he knows he won’t be home for Christmas. As he walks into the kitchen on Christmas Eve, he smells sweet bread and licorice but there haven’t been cookies in the cookie jar for over a year. But tonight his mother has decided to make traditional Christmas cookies for the needy at church, although Jack would rather have them for himself. The wooden cookie boards with their Nativity moulds are brought out and as she bakes, his mother tells him the story of Christ’s birth through the shapes, just as was done in medieval times when people were too poor to go to school to read.
Next day, they take the cookies to church, but to Jack’s delight his mother has saved him the angel one that he liked so much. But just as he is about to take a bit, there is a knock on the door….
In the Scwaben region of Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland these cookie moulds – or springerle moulds – were used to press into biscuit dough and this story is built on that. While not necessarily a regular custom in Australian homes, it is common in the US and it is yet another tale associated with the traditions of Christmas that is worth exploring and discussing the virtue of selflessness and giving rather than receiving. It does have a strong Christian bent although the message of helping others in need is universal regardless of beliefs. The back flap includes a recipe for Christmas cookies and while the wooden moulds may be hard to obtain, there are enough Christmas shapes available to start a new family tradition.